Meet Didi Morake: How her passion and creativity is decreasing youth unemployment in South Africa

didi morake

This is the last part of “Inside Global Citizen”, a limited series. We pull back the curtain and highlight members of Global Citizen staff who are key parts of the organization’s advocacy, impact, and more. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining today.

Didi Morake had a lucrative career in the corporate banking industry. After completing her Masters in Strategic Marketing from the Wits Business School, Didi landed a position working as the Customer Value Proposition Designer for Youth at ABSA Bank.

 

Didi’s position at ABSA allowed her to pursue her passion for helping the youth. However, when she heard about Global Citizen, she saw a whole new world of possibilities for making a difference.

 

Resonating deeply with the organization’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, Didi took the leap and left the corporate world. Didi Morake now works as the Senior Manager for Strategic Partnerships where she spearheads the Global Citizen Fellowship Program powered by BeyGOOD.

 

Morake believes that she is now doing the work she was always meant to do.

 

“Growing up, I always thought I was going to be a doctor. I was always that one friend that was there for others – to pick them up when they fell. I thought being a pediatrician was befitting to me and my personality. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that it wasn’t about the title, it was about the purpose – which I had at heart – helping young people.”
Didi Morake

On Creating Sustainable Programs to Tackle Unemployment

 

Unemployment in South Africa is staggeringly high, especially among young people. According to Trading Economics, South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to 30.1% in the first quarter of 2020 from 29.1% in the previous period. It was the highest jobless rate on record since quarterly data became available in 2008.

 

Whilst this might seem like a crippling challenge to some, Didi and her team are doing something about it. “Young people are the future, and with the right access to skills and training opportunities, everyone can achieve their full potential. This is exactly why the Global Citizen Fellowship powered by BeyGOOD exists,” says Morake. 

By working together through the fellowship program, the partnership offers young people an opportunity of a lifetime. Designed to empower young people with work experience, the program is not only supporting the vision of a South Africa that nurtures its youth.

 

The Global Citizen Fellowship is also equipping young people with the skills they need to play a role in social justice, helping their communities achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and amplifying causes that they believe in.

 

Take how the program is structured for example. It has multiple phases designed to offer each of the 10 fellows a fully immersive experience. The program covers subjects such as leadership, advocacy, international development, and global citizenship.

 

“Fellows will also have the opportunity to take part in a series of masterclasses given by industry leaders. The program also features educational field trips designed to help fellows develop into value-centred, community-driven leaders,” Didi added.

 

Didi added,“The past cohort were learning about using digital technology to drive social change; how storytelling can help spark cultural shifts; and the role of innovation in an ever-changing world.”

 

“ I think our youth are really passionate, and they’re very hungry to be heard, especially the females. What I pray for is that they keep that consistency to ensure that when they get to the top, they are bringing in other sisters into the workforce.” — Didi Morake

Cathy From Limpopo: A Rewarding Success Story

“I remember Cathy from Limpopo, who has her blog called Millennial Mirror, a platform born out of the need to create a space for young people to share their experiences. She came in with a very analytical brain since she had a background in Mathematics and Information Systems. It was so beautiful to see her discover her creative side by the end of the fellowship and become more in touch with it.” 

“Now Cathy hopes to one day be able to use technology to find solutions for society’s pressing issues and tackle injustices,” Morake added. This is Didi’s why — helping young people reach their full potential. This success story is one example in which Didi finds her work rewarding and helping her fulfil her purpose. 

Thrive: Didi’s Call to Women in 2020

2020 has been an especially tough year in youth development and employment for women. While the situation is not all grim, Didi comments that in her work, she continues to find herself asking one major question — ‘where are the women?’

According to Didi, there are a lot of spaces women still need to occupy. This is why Didi’s mandate to all women this year is — thrive.

“Thrive in what it is that keeps you up at night. Thrive in your personal and spiritual relationships. Awaken to who you are and unleash your potential.” — Didi Morake

Interested in making an impact in your community like Didi? Learn more about how you can take action at globalcitizen.org or Global Citizen Twitter page.

What went down at the #IAMORIGINAL Boss Brunch & Panel – Johannesburg

Curated within the beautiful landscape of Jozi on a peaceful Sunday, She Leads Africa in partnership with The Cut Life and Originals by Africa’s Best held a Boss Brunch and panel with the finest Motherland Mogul influencers of Africa.

The location was a hidden oasis of tranquility, The Gabriela’s Tea Room, perfect for some girl chat, champagne was flowing, the crowd was buzzing. What a beautiful Sunday.

In the era of feminism and self-love, you do find some false prophets that don’t live up to their campaign inside as loudly as they may be online.

What was important about the #IAMORIGINAL panel and brunch was that it focused on the challenges black women struggle through.

The theme that stood out from the event was the need for women to back each other up and actually mean it.

For the older and younger generation to join minds and create solutions for the Motherland Moguls that follow.

The event kicked off with a warm welcome from the bubbly Shanon Stanislaus of Originals by Africa’s Best. She spoke about the benefits of their new Coconut Creme range that has nutrition rich formulas, helping your natural hair with the foundation its needs for hair goals.

I tried some of the samples from the gift bag and I am sold on the products, which are available from Clicks nationwide or through The Originals by Africa’s best website.

We then proceeded into an hour-long networking bingo session, that had our Influencers and Motherland Moguls buzzing through the room, the energy was so lively- It felt like the best girl chat session I’ve been to in ages.

We held bingo cards that had questions such as “Who in the room has three pets, Who is an only child”. These were great ice breakers, especially for an introvert like myself.

Back to our tables, we were served incredible dishes by The Gabriela’s Tea Room patrons, everything delicious and mouthwatering.

This amazing panel was moderated by Tahira Joy of The Cut Life joined by Shanon Stanislaus (Originals by Africa’s Best), Enhle Mbali (Actress), Azania Mosaka (Broadcaster) and Jamelia Donaldson (Founder of Treasure Tress).

They spoke on self-care and beauty, ways to effectively run your business and respect yourself and values in the process.

We all got a few tips on how to reach your next Boss level in entrepreneurship through their stories, lessons and best practices.

Azania Mosaka dropped so many nuggets that had all the women in agreement throughout.

“Stick to your values and you’ll always win" – @Azania_ Click To Tweet

In the entertainment industry women are made to choose to get ahead either giving their bodies or having to dumb down their intellect so at to seem less of a threat to colleagues.

As shocking as it may sound, these are challenges most women are still overcoming.

A recurring theme throughout the Boss brunch and panel was how women need to remain educated and curious in our endeavors and not forgetting the people we build our dreams with.

“If you’re starting your race, be invaluable to your team.” – Shanon Stanislaus..

There’s only so much you can do as an individual, once you realize your expertise is invaluable, the impossible is just as attainable as anything.

We truly are better together.

On the theme of staying curious in what your interests are, Jamelia Donaldson of Treasure Tress stated…

You don’t know what you want to do until you’ve tried it all”. Click To Tweet

“ You don’t know what you want to do until you’ve tried it all”.

This tied in so well with the events hashtag of the day #IAMORIGINAL, when you apply yourself and work on what your secret sauce is, what do you really have to lose ?

All in all, this was an event, unlike any other networking event I have been to, which is saying a lot as I have been to a ton of networking sessions and gone home feeling as though I barely received much value from the speakers.

It could be just how intimate the brunch was or the fact that everyone left their egos at the door and simply wanted to celebrate each other.

I have nothing but praise for what these women aimed to share through the event and I believe that we can all learn from them.

As Motherland Moguls we are constantly inspiring those around us, we may not realize it a lot of the times, the best thing we can do is live an intention-driven life in our goals, decisions, and actions.

Work within the passion and not ego, power or status.

I’m definitely looking forward to more events from these powerhouses.


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5 Female artists making moves in Botswana

Breaking into the creative industry is not easy but there are pioneers paving the way. These young women, taking over the music industry in Botswana are Motherland Moguls in their own right.

They are taking over not just locally but internationally as well inspiring a new sound. What is inspiring by all these women, is not only their music.

It’s their work in pushing the industry forward and creating opportunities for other artists through meaningful collaboration.

Let’s meet all 5 of them, shall we?


 Thato Jessica

Thato Jessica started her career singing as the only female member of X-Caliber – a Gospel Hip-Hop group which gained its popularity in the country through their unique sound and positive message.

She left the group in 2015 to pursue her solo career.

The Mapoka born artist who has a degree in Architecture from the University of Botswana started her solo career being featured on Chef Gustos song – Take Your Timewhich revealed the singer’s talent and capacity to stand on her own.

 

The poet and visual artist released her single – Show me, which has since been followed by her Seasons EP, and consequently amazing songs like Problem Feat. Veezo,  and her latest offering Addicted.

Her music genre is R&B, Hip-Hop, Motswako, and Soul. You can find her music on her Youtube channel.

Samantha Mogwe

Samantha Mogwe – born to a Motswana father and a Zambian mother, brings a fusion of neo-soul/RnB to her music. This artist/songwriter performs on local and international stages and well recognized for her work in Botswana.

Samantha is a multifaceted individual who places great value on education and its re-inventive qualities. She acquired her degree Cum Laude in Theology which she attained at Baptist Theological College in Randburg, South Africa.

Some of her early career accomplishments include being 2nd runner-up for My African Dream Junior singing category in 2003 and winner of the Gabz Karaoke Idols in 2004.

She made the top 24 of African Idols as the only representative from Botswana in 2008.

Samantha has performed at the monthly Exodus Live Poets events as well as their annual festivals alongside artists such as Neo Quashie, TJ Dema, Phil Rotz, KK the beatboxer from 2004-2010 and won an award for “My African Dream – Living The Dream” in 2010.

Her first album Transition released in 2013 was a huge success leading to performances on various local and international stages of note.

She is currently a radio host on Gabz-FM and also recently released new music titled Secrets which is receiving recognition in Botswana.

The workout loving singer is a mother and wife and was born in Serowe, Botswana. Her music can be found on Amazon and on her YouTube Channel.

Mpho Sebina

Mpho Sebina is a self-taught and learning musician whose music can only be described as Afrofuturistic soul and R&B.

Growing up in a family of music lovers her writing and singing style is inspired by the likes of Sade, Bob Marley, Brenda Fassie, Boom Shaka, Lebo Mathosa and others which you can hear as part of her influences in her music. She studied and graduated with an Honours Degree in International Business from Multimedia University in Malaysia where she performed for local spaces and poetry sessions and made her exploration into music more than just a passion.

Malaysia is where the song Loves Light was written, inspired by the song Tselane by Black Jacks. She released a full length titled album Loves Light and released an EP titled Neo which means Gift this year.

Mpho is the founder of Naked Soul Sessions which gives a platform to local artists including some on this list. She has performed on various stages locally and internationally and is featured on Global Citizen as artists to watch.

You can listen to more of her music on Soundcloud her Youtube Channel.

Amantle Brown

Amantle Brown is an R&B artist who started on a local talent show called My Star and made it to the finale. Her first album titled Sa Pelo gave the artist her place in the industry with hits like Black Mampatile and Moratiwa which dominated local radio airwaves.She was nominated for several awards including the Botswana Music Union Awards Best RnB and Best New Comer in 2015. Since then she has also collaborated with other artists with amazing music.

She released Follo, a romantic song featuring one of the local artists which was inspired by Afro Beats which exposed her artistic range and embrace of a more African sound.

She is a songwriter, singer, and performer who is known to deliver quality all rounded performances. Her work now extends to being a judge on Melody Gospel Television on Botswana Television.

She released a much-anticipated sophomore project in April with the stand out track being Bereka Mosadi which means Work, Woman – an anthem for Southern African women to pursue their dreams.

You can listen to more of her music on Youtube.

Louisa April

Louisa April is a contemporary soul and R&B singer, songwriter and musician. Her acoustic music is mostly emotional and is also infused and highlighted with alternative folk and soul.

Born to a Namibian mother and Nigerian father, Louisa spent her first seven years in Namibia before returning to be raised in Gaborone, Botswana.

Louisa grew up behind a book. This led to her trying out writing in its various forms (poetry, songs) she also had a natural talent for singing. She pursued a degree in Computer Science in Russia, is a committee member of Purple Crown Society and a Global Shaper in the Gaborone Hub.
She has performed at MILO Concert Hall in Russia and alongside Tafnaz the Acoustic Badboi at the Jazz Exchange in Botswana. Louisa has also performed for the Gaborone International Music Festival and Naked Soul Sessions.

Her music can be found on Sound cloud and on her Youtube channel.


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Kene Rapu: Find something that makes your brand different from everyone else

Kene Rapu is the founder and CEO of ‘Kene Rapu’, the No.1 Nigerian footwear brand championing local production, established in 2011.

Her brand has played a significant role in changing the face of ‘Made in Nigeria’ footwear. Kene is a fully qualified lawyer with an LLB law degree from the University of Bristol, UK and a Masters Degree in Fashion Entrepreneurship from the London College of Fashion, UK.

In 2016 she was selected by the Tony Elumelu Foundation as one of 1000 African Entrepreneurs who’s idea could “change Africa”, in 2017 as one of 100 ‘Most Influential’ women in Nigeria by Leading Ladies Africa and most recently listed in the prestigious Forbes Africa ’30 under 30’ class of 2018, in the business category.

All Kene Rapu slippers are proudly made in Nigeria for the global community.


Dream big but start small, grow as organically as possible - @KeneRapu Click To Tweet

What vision did you have when you started out, is it different from what you are experiencing now?

Our vision was to be the No.1 Nigerian footwear brand championing local production, and it has
remained the same.

We are excited about the progress we have made so far, and are looking forward to getting the nations wearing KR.

What is it like making it to Forbes 30 under 30 lists?

The journey so far makes me more excited for the road ahead. I’m passionate about what I do, and it is humbling and encouraging to know that something I started 7 years ago, has morphed into a business that is recognized globally.

How has this exposure impacted your brand?

Having a world renown brand highlight your business as one of 30 emerging brands in Africa, is definitely gratifying for a business owner, increases consumer trust and opens you up to a new network of professionals and investors.

How can an entrepreneur build a solid brand?

 

In whatever area you want to go into, do your market research. Find a unique selling point, find something that makes your brand different from everyone else in that market.

Know your customer, define him or her, have a clear vision of where you want your brand to go; stay focused and remember why you started.

Having come this far starting out in 2011, what important lesson can aspiring entrepreneurs take from your journey?

Dream big but start small, grow as organically as possible.

Understand that there is no such thing as an overnight success. Hard work pays. Consistency and integrity are important. Provide value; a quality product will market itself.

How do you deal with gender biases you encounter as a woman running an enterprise?

As a female in business, sometimes there are unnecessary issues you have to deal with, that
should not be the case. However, challenges make you stronger, whether gender-related or
otherwise; deal with them head on and move on.

When you jump past hurdles, it is a testament that indeed you are a survivor. I also believe surrounding yourself with the right company is helpful. I have female friends in the business, and we spend time discussing how to resolve our common challenges. Having strong ladies in your corner certainly makes the journey easier.

What message do you have for women who need the courage to follow their passion?

Go for it. The road is not easy, in fact, it is difficult, but it is certainly gratifying when you begin to break through. Seize the moment and start now.


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Career and Business advice For the Young Black Woman

In the wake of women’s month, it is so important to use our platform to always uplift young women so that they can reach their full potential in whichever career path they choose.

As a young black woman, especially as one starting out in her career, the work place can be a challenging space to navigate through. Gender pay gap, sexual harassment and racial discrimination are our biggest issues and play a pivotal role in how fast or slowly we climb up the career ladder.

This constantly leaves us questioning where we fit, add value and what kind of impact we are going to make in our chosen fields.

Keep reading, because below, we have asked 3 young and incredibly talented women to speak to us about the 3 key lessons they have learnt to push past the career challenges of the young black woman.

3 young women share the 3 key lessons they have learnt to push past business and career challenges of the young woman. Click To Tweet

BE YOURSELF

Priscilla Menoe – Billing Supervisor

Be you. Most of us don’t know how to naturally be ourselves but once you are able to simply show your personality, you become impressionable to your peers.

Be curious, read and ask questions. Not just on your job but on those related to yours. Understand the business’ big picture and where you fall in so you are better able to plan your own path of success.

Get a sponsor or mentor to understand what value you wish to extract from the relationship.

“Once you are able to simply show your personality, you become impressionable to your peers.” – Priscilla Menoe Click To Tweet

Lastly, try be sociable. Comes easier to others but people promote and hire those they like. Go to the work drinks, go to the charity event and talk about things that are not work related to understand fully people’s characters and where your personalities get along.

Above all, remember you are magic.

INVEST IN YOURSELF

Liziwe Ntshweza – Associate

I think we’re all familiar with the fact that corporate South Africa continues to be largely white and male. The secret is to invest in yourself not only intellectually or professionally but mentally and spiritually.

My experience has taught me that as a young black woman, I have always felt that I needed to be exceptional to be given the same respect as my white, male or white male peers. I have found myself going over and above what was required only to be overlooked.

“Be clear about what you need from a business or career. How will it align to your own personal ambitions? Who can support you in your growth?” – Liziwe Ntshweza Click To Tweet

I have come to learn what it is that I bring to the table and ensuring that at every point, at least one person at the table is clear about what that is.

Find allies in the workplace and use them for guidance as well as to off-load because there will be days when you need to vent before you can continue.

More than anything else, build a strong support system outside of the office and take care of yourself. Be deliberate about taking care of yourself and try to enjoy it by celebrating your victories, big and small.

 

MAINTAIN YOUR CONFIDENCE

Thina Zulu – Auditor

In my profession where knowledge is everything, I have learnt that one must never stop working on their emotional intelligence.

I think that’s so important in the workplace. Always be your own biggest fan, and don’t expect others to pat your back. Know that you are enough, know that whatever is thrown at you, you can handle.

Trust yourself, fight for yourself, and never lose sight of who you are.

“Know that you are enough, know that whatever is thrown at you, you can handle.” – Thina Zulu Click To Tweet


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Video: Koleka Putuma sends a Love Letter to Africa

South African slam poet Koleka Putuma delivers a powerful recitation of the poem she authored, entitled – “Love Letter to Africa.”

Putuma uses the medium of the spoken word to express her love for Africa and to highlight the unique traditions, legacies, and culture of the African continent. Her words are carefully chosen and beautifully penned, but to see her speak the words that she has written is a spellbinding experience.

Every part of her body speaks to her audience, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.

Watch her love letter to Africa here:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=IXiuCPvJvMc

Putuma earned a degree in Theatre and Performance at the University of Cape Town, and she has traveled the globe delivering these mesmerizing performances in places as far afield as Glasgow, Scotland, and New York, USA.

She was recognized on the Forbes Africa Under 30s list of creatives making waves for 2018.
Other works by Putuma address important social issues facing African women, including health and education.

Standard Bank Group is the largest African banking group by assets, with a market cap of approximately R317 billion (USD28 billion), offering a range of banking and related financial services across sub-Saharan Africa.

Their strategy is to be an African focused, client-centered, digitally enabled universal financial services organization, which drives Africa’s growth and creates value for all our stakeholders. Our clients are at the center of everything they do.

Standard Bank Group has a 155-year history in South Africa and started building a franchise in sub-Saharan Africa almost 30 years ago. They have an on-the-ground presence in 20 countries on the African continent, and solid local knowledge required to operate a successful business in Africa.


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Vumile Msweli: Thinking global allows us to elevate our standards and fast track our learning

Vumile Msweli is an international speaker, renowned coach and the Chief Executive officer for Hesed Consulting. Hesed is a consulting firm specializing in commerce acceleration, career coaching, women empowerment,  facilitation and training on the African continent.

Vumile has worked in Europe, Asia and across the African continent for reputable multinational institutions including Barclays, Investec, Nedbank, First National Bank and Vodafone.

She is an award-winning businesswoman who has received honors such as the Women’s’ Economic Forum’s Woman of Excellence Award, named 34th Most Influential Young South African by Avance Media, the Mail and Guardian Top 200 most influential Young South Africans.

Vumi has also been awarded the Elle Boss of the Year in the Corporate Category. As we celebrate women’s month in South Africa, Vumi talks about what she’s learned from globetrotting and her driving force to start her business.


Traveling is one of the best educations you can give yourself - @vumilemsweli Click To Tweet

Tell us about your experience studying in various countries and how its helped you

I am a vehement advocate for education and its ability to transform lives. I also believe that traveling is one of the best educations you can give yourself.

The combination of expanding my worldview through both formal and informal learning by studying in different countries has been invaluable to be me. It helped me realize how I am a global citizen with proudly African roots.

Living abroad also shifted my thinking to want to excel at a global level whilst keeping my local values. I also learned that where I was born doesn’t define where I belong.

How did studying in West Africa change your perspective about business and career?

 

Being an African, one tends to think of the entire continent as home but West Africa definitely has an energy like no place on earth. There are a palpable entrepreneurial spirit and an optimistic view of taking control and accountability for your life as a pose to making excuses as to why you aren’t where you could be.

The competition is also very tough, you look at Nigeria and realize that the population of Lagos alone is half the population of my country South Africa.

There are also some infrastructural challenges such as energy but no one sits around waiting for the government to resolve these. Everyone gets on with it and takes it upon themselves to excel despite these challenges.

Being in West Africa imprinted in me the importance of a diverse revenue stream, the importance of being able to sustain oneself in a cash economy as a pose to being enslaved by credit for survival.

West Africans exude an apologetic confidence for their existence, their desires, and the pursuit of their dreams. Being surrounded by a culture like that leaves you no choice but to walk with your head a little taller, work harder and make no excuses as you toil towards your own goals.

What prompted you to start your business – Hesed Consulting?

 

I found myself having coaching conversations with friends and acquaintances on various career-related topics and soon realized that I had acquired some niche knowledge.

Especially around accelerating my career, what seemed to me to be a simple strategic career or finance play was a non-discussion amongst my peers.

I thoroughly enjoy seeing people transform through a shift in perception. Marianne Williamson aptly said: “ a miracle is a shift in perception”.Certainly, I wanted to be a part of that miracle.

Vumi is truly a teacher at heart, I love sharing what I have learned. So the look on someone’s face as they utter “I never thought of it that way before” and then proceed to change the direction of their lives because of that conversation gives me great joy.

Being a part of that sacred space of sharing tools and experiences that help my clients leapfrog their learning and accelerate their careers and businesses truly makes my heart sing. That’s what prompted me to start Hesed and it’s the reason why Hesed is still in existence 6 years later.

At Hesed, we work with individuals and entrepreneurs to accelerate their careers and businesses. We do this through workshops; training; coaching and consulting. We have a pan-African approach; global exposure whilst remaining locally relevant.

I guess what makes our team rather unique is that we have executive experience across sectors so we understand the pressures of both corporate and entrepreneurship. Also, many of our teams have worked and lived in different countries and continents.

That cultural richness allows for diversity in thinking when tailor making solutions for our clients.

How did you go from being a trained accountant working in an international financial institution to a becoming an international speaker and accelerator coach?

 

I had the scholarship to study my Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting Sciences but soon realized after completing that it definitely was not my passion.

Actually, I recalled working at an Investment Bank early in my career and instead of focusing on the financial audit work I was assigned to found myself in the customer care department worrying about clients. I was more concerned about the organization’s strategy and operational ability to service them better.

Needless to say, my career shifted towards being people-centric and that has never changed. It just expanded to their strategies for success and how they can operate better in their careers and personal lives.

Being African allows us to see the world through a certain lens - @vumilemsweli Click To Tweet

How valuable is it to be African and think global?

 

I often say I am a proudly African global citizen. Thinking global allows us to elevate our standards; fast track our learning; bring international best practices to the continent whilst expanding our reach to the whole world.

Thinking global in my opinion should not be in exchange for our what makes us African. Being African allows us to see the world through a certain lens and more often than not have a shared experience such as valuing Ubuntu; a tangible sense of community, a rich heritage, and culture.

This is an advantage for us because selfish capitalism is no longer sustainable as a means of doing business. This is an opportunity for the whole world to bask in Africa’s rising.

Who are your mentors and what life lessons have you’ve learned from them?

 

Lillian Barnard taught me that femininity and executive power are not mutually exclusive that being feminine is a power within itself.

Sindi Mabaso-Koyane has taught me that there is indescribable joy in being of service to others. By asking how you can serve allows you to rise to the occasion of fulfilling your purpose.

Buyile Ngcobo reminds me constantly that being my most authentic self is the fuel to propel me to my destiny.

How do you set goals for yourself? Do you use a one year, 5-year plan, or the traditional vision, board?

 

I am a very visual person so vision boards work well for me using images and words to draw experiences to me is one of my favorite things.

In my bedroom, my vision board is framed and is actually one of the first things I see when I wake up. My vision boards offer inspiration for me as I pursue my goals and lofty dreams.

You are constantly building networks across the continent, how does this translate to business for you?

 

Not as fast as you would think. I am a big believer in genuine relationship building. People can very often sense if you are coming from a transactional place or being authentic. This may be the slow route but people do business with people.

So I take time to really get to know the people I engage and in turn, they get to know my heart, energy, and personality. Thus they have the ability to vouch for not just a brand but a woman they know and trust.

My vision boards offer inspiration for me as I pursue my goals and lofty dreams - @vumilemsweli Click To Tweet

You’ve been to 50/51 countries in the world. Where was your favorite place, and why?

 

This feels like a trick question! I like different places for different reasons. I enjoy Bali, Indonesia for the simplicity and warmness of its people who will share their last cent to make you feel at home.

I enjoy Lagos, Nigeria because it’s insomniac energy inspires the entrepreneur in me to dream bigger and work enthusiastically towards my goals.

Prague, the Czech Republic for its architectural beauty makes me feel like I am in a painting.

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa because it’s my home. From the breathtaking valley of a thousand hills, it’s rich history to its warm beaches all year round to my mother’s cooking.

What drives Vumi?

 

Leaving a legacy drives me. It was sagely said that we die twice. Once when they put you in the ground. Second when they utter your name for the last time. It’s that second death that drives me what can I do in life to make life easier for the next person that the impact of my existence may be felt long after my body is in the ground.

What’s the one advice you’d give to your younger self?

 

Vumile you are enough.

It’s unbelievable how enough you are. You are God’s child, definitely one of his favorites. Your destiny is larger than any of your wildest imaginings.

So go ahead and be the fulfillment of your wildest dreams you can imagine yourself to be.


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Elom Ayayee: Photography for me was a fortunate accident

Elom Ayayee never thought photography would be a part of her life. Her career path was in international relations, policy, linguistics, and publishing. But her love for beautiful images in magazines ignited her desire to pursue a career in photography.

She wanted to recreate these looks which seemed limited to only models for the everyday woman who could be a wife, mother, entrepreneur / employee, believer, citizen and role model.

Elom started with no knowledge of photography. She didn’t know how to take photos and had no clients. But with time, constant practice and determination, she opened her photo studio Elom Ayayee Portraiture where she takes magazine-worthy images of women to remember for the rest of their lives.


How did you start your photography career?

Photography was a very fortunate accident and I fall in love with it more and more every day. It’s all about meeting someone for the first time and finally creating a timeless piece of art that speaks to the essence of who they are or who they want to be in the moment it was created.

To me, that is the amazing power of portraiture. Photography for me is the power to exist in time. It’s a way to say “I was here. I lived, I loved, I hurt, I suffered, I rejoiced, I was silent, I was loud. I held this space”.

Why do you focus on women?

I started photographing family and friends and before I knew it I had a client base. My move to photograph women was not just a great business plan. But, it was also a way to highlight these women who are sometimes invisible in the roles they play. Women often get lost in their responsibilities and forget to appreciate themselves.

My initial desire was to give women just one day off. A day to get pampered and remember and document who she is outside of all the hustle.

To get her hair and makeup done and the most beautiful images of herself that would be loved and cherished and appreciated for all time.

What were some of the hurdles you encountered and how did you solve them?

Marketing has been the biggest hurdle. I’m naturally a very private person and 90% of my client base is from referrals. Putting myself out there is still a very uncomfortable experience for me.

That being said, my target market is small and very specific so that tends to minimize the effort I would otherwise have to make in marketing myself. It’s a lazy way of marketing I guess; give great service and let happy clients do the talking for you.

How do you get your photographs to spread your messages?

I don’t create my photographs for the general public. I create images for my clients to hang on their walls in their homes – this is very intimate and private. Images that hopefully their great great great grandchildren will see and talk about.

My images are about time, legacy and emotion. All of my images say different things in the different homes they live in. I can usually tell by spending enough time with a woman who she wants to see when she looks at an image of herself. I pull on every resource within me during a shoot to be able to give her that.

Elom Ayayee: Photography for me was a fortunate accident Click To Tweet

How do you improve your photography and get inspired? 

I do this every way that I can. I enjoy constructive criticism from people I look up to in the industry and my clients. I’m always on the internet trying to figure out how to get what I see in my head right.

My clients are all the inspiration I need. I’ve met such incredible people. Every woman has a story, every child has incredible potential. One day what I create for this person will be a timeless treasure to someone else.

Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?

Yes! I’m doing a series for women that I’m very excited about. It’s easy to promise to take the most amazing picture a woman has ever seen of herself when she’s been pampered and dolled up and looks like the jackpot.

Can I take the most beautiful picture of a woman make-up free? This is my challenge to myself and all my clients. So far, it’s been amazing. Women are so deep and they carry so much behind their eyes.

Each of my clients who have trusted me enough to put themselves in this vulnerable place has been won over. It’s literally the most powerful image you could ever take.

What photography gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best?

I started with a Nikon D3300 and I’ve always used natural light. My first studio was robbed and all my gear was stolen, that’s when I switched to Canon. I’m now shooting on a 5DMark iii.

I own a 50mm lens which I shoot 80% of my shots with and a 70-200 for my outdoor portraits. I use Adobe Photoshop for my editing.

What advice would you give young photographers who want to make it in this industry?

I really don’t feel like I’m qualified to speak for the whole industry, but I would say you need solid people skills and know the basic fundamentals of how to run a business. There’s a huge difference between a business and a hustle.

Also, advise often depends on what area of photography you venture in. So, the first thing I would say is, find your niche, and contrary to popular belief, the smaller your niche the better. Too many photographers are doing too many things. You can’t have it all.  Give great service. Master your craft.


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Incredible Women in Art: Maneo Mohale — I’m hella queer, and proudly so

Maneo Mohale is one of the most brilliant minds we’ve ever met. She is an arts journalist, writer, editor and a major LGBTQI advocate, who has written for prominent publications and has also created her own platform, The Talon.

Maneo uses her extraordinary talent to create a safe space for the LGBTQI community and black women; lending them a voice in order to share their own stories and experiences.

We had the amazing opportunity to pick Maneo’s brain and chat about all the things that move her.


How did you get into the art industry?

The Art industry is extremely broad and feels a little incongruous with what I do with most of my time, (which is write and edit), but I’ve been writing for as long as I remember.

I only entered seriously into the realm of arts journalism at university, when I co-founded an online student journalism platform called The Talon alongside an incredible team and editorial collective.

I was a writer and an editor for the publication, but I really enjoyed editing there.

Soon after, I dipped my toes in all kinds of creative and journalistic writing and then landed my Global Feminism Writing Fellowship with an American feminist organization called Bitch Media, which really skyrocketed by interest in smart and sexy arts journalism.

Since then, I’m really getting a feel for the media landscape, and I’m loving the art that I am exposed to by both editing talented arts writers and trying my pen at responding to the waves made in the South African and broader global arts industries as well.

The media landscape is made richer and more meaningful with our voices in it - @ManeoMohale Click To Tweet

As an advocate for the LGBTQI community, tell us about what you do, including your work with Platform Magazine

I think there’s more than a little danger in forming an identity around advocacy and activism, so I tend to bristle a bit at the solidity of thinking of myself as an ‘advocate’.

I’m hella queer, and proudly so, and because of the spaces and access that I’m fortunate to have at my fingertips through the work I do, I try my best to make space while taking space in the world.

It’s a seemingly simple praxis, but it’s rooted in the radical and innate belief that we hold each other’s lives, liberation, safety, progress, in our hands. As an editor, for Platform and others, that looked like deliberately and consciously looking for and developing the writing of black women, trans writers, queer writers, etc., especially in spaces where there are more barriers to our publications than most.

It’s quiet, gradual work, but that’s the kind of work I love best. The media landscape is made richer and more meaningful with our voices in it, and whatever part I get to play in that is a real source of joy and pride.

Photo by – Kgomotso Neto

Who are your two favourite women artists and why?

I have a real soft spot for jazz and jazz writing, as I was raised listening to, and soaking up aspects of jazz culture since I was tiny.

Lately, I’ve really appreciated how South African jazz has widened to really centralise women and my two favourite artists right now are Thandi Ntuli and Zoë Modiga.

They’re electrifyingly talented, and I adore their approach to their craft so much. They make me want to become a better writer.

I love the art that I am exposed to - @ManeoMohale Click To Tweet

Who do you look to for inspiration?

It may sound really silly, but I’m inspired all of the time, everywhere I look. I’m surrounded by passionate and creative people. They’re my ever-expanding chosen family and just basking in their light is enough to inspire me.

 

Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us?

I do! Some of them are still in the oven and developing, especially personal creative projects and publications that are forming on the horizon. But the one I’m most excited about it a queer reading series that I’m launching with some of my favourite people in the world.

It’ll be a space where trans and queer writers can read their work to an audience and share their process while building a supportive and responsive community at the same time.

We have such powerful, thoughtful, and innovative writing produced by trans and queer people here in SA, and I’m excited to lend my hand in creating a space for us to just bask in each other’s brilliance.

Photo by – Kgomotso Neto

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to become a creative artist?

Find your family, and start where you are. Finding, building and nurturing a community of people who are both supportive and critical is how I started on this convoluted journey – they were the first people I trusted to read my work, and created a bedrock for me to test my ideas for projects and pieces.

Also, what inevitably happens is a moment when you all look around the room at each other and say: “We don’t need anyone else to start something gorgeous. We’ve got each other.”

As a Black Queer Feminist, how do you navigate through challenges in the creative industry?

I think one of my main challenges, (asides from the given ones around navigating the triple whammy of racism, sexism and homophobia), is learning how to take up space while standing my ground, especially around some of the principles and values on which I refuse to compromise.

I’m not a particularly confrontational person, and I’m quite a sensitive bean at the best times, so learning how to be firm for myself is definitely an ever-unfolding lesson. When it comes to being fierce for other people, my writers, for example, I can do that in a heartbeat.

It’s instinctual for me to be protective. But when it comes to me, well shucks. But we live and we learn, and I think I’m getting better at it, slowly.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Rinae Sikhwari: I want to be a change driver

Meet Rinae Sikhwari, a 26-year-old young woman from Tshikwarani Village in South Africa. She currently resides in Polokwane finishing off her BCom Economics and Business Management from UNISA whilst working at New Leaders Foundation.

She is a fan of reading African literature books, watching series, traveling and discovering new places. Her favorite pastimes include going to food markets, organizing activities for the children in her home church, as well as watching TED Talks and writing. 


Rinae describes herself as a change driver and a learner at heart. She is an advocate for providing quality education, especially for children in disadvantaged communities.

Education has always been one of Rinae`s biggest passions and she strives to gain a stronger understanding of the complexities, challenges, and milestones of the South African Education System.

Part of this is to not only be a solutions bringer but also a change agent to see the education system transformed to cater to the needs of all the children across the country.

 

The South African Education Government spends 6.4% of its GDP on education, however, performance levels are lower than many other countries in the region. Not all children have access to the same quality of education, a legacy left behind by the apartheid government.

Rinae is a consultant at New Leaders Foundation, a non- profit organization that is committed to transforming South African Education. The Organisation founded the Data Driven Districts Dashboard Programme, an approachable, highly intuitive dashboard that displays appropriate education-related information to education officials at all levels in the South African Schooling system.

She emphasizes the importance of data – “Having accurate data ensures that informed decisions are being made, data determines all the decisions and interventions that need to be undertaken.”

Her work involves a lot of interaction with stakeholders from the department of education in driving data-driven conversations and decisions. Engagement with these stakeholders is based on data attained from schools through the South African School Management System.

“I’ve learned to understand how essential it is to have people skills and managing working relations with officials of different levels and rankings”. Her work ranges from assisting Department of Education officials from district directors to curriculum advisors and school principals attain data that will assist them to make informed decisions.Her work also takes her into the field where she can see firsthand how the policies of the Department of Education affect local communities.

“Working in the field has offered me the context to understand the data we extract from schools on a daily basis.” This has brought visibility of complexities of the department and an understanding of the massive gaps and inequalities in the education sector.

Central to her beliefs is the importance of advocating for the education of young women especially those that are growing up in areas where they are faced with so many socio-economic issues, who face so many challenges and a lot of the times education becomes a pillar and an enabler for them to defy the odds against them.

Her own upbringing in a rural village made her understand that it is through education that a woman becomes independent and attains opportunities.

“I am still such a firm believer that not only does education enable one to critically think and analyse but also education gives one the opportunity to be inquisitive, seek to explore and know more and the more you can do better, a learned/well-read/educated woman is able to challenge the status quo, I believe being educated gives one option and looking at how marginalized women are in society particularly black women it is imperative and essential for women to be educated.

Rinae established a reading club in the township of Seshego in 2015 for children aged between 4-14 years old, currently, the club has over 50 children and has strong support from the parents.

She describes the reading club as a platform for children to learn to read and write for enjoyment, it’s a space in which children learn mathematical, social and literacy skills.

“I’ve just observed how children enjoy our sessions and most of them have become avid readers, I love how they speak their minds and express their opinions that is actually what’s important for me.”

Rinae has always wanted to do work that has a meaning to her and her development as someone aspiring to be a change driver. What does this mean? Being a change driver means doing more to better her community whether it be through mentoring and tutoring or supporting community development initiatives started by her peers or young people from her village.

It also means giving a voice and a platform to those who need the change most- raising awareness about initiatives and shinning the spotlight on the developments in the community.


Know of anyone impacting your community? Share their story with us here.